21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

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A peak into the endless influence of Nas' "Illmatic."

Illmatic turns 21 years old today, and since we can't buy it a drink, we've decided to take a look at 21 rappers who were influenced directly by the album. We did some digging to find quotes, interviews, lyrics, and examples of artists praising Nas' debut album, a record that changed hip hop forever.

As arguably the greatest rap album of all time, there's no shortage of MCs who have expressed their love for the masterpiece. From OGs like Ghostface Killah to young up-and-comers like Bishop Nehru, Illmatic has been felt by virtually anyone who has ever picked up a mic and attempted to rap. The wordplay, delivery, beats, storytelling, and overall style created not just an album, but a legend that we still celebrate today. 

 


Bishop Nehru

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

"I think it affected my rapping style a lot. I think it affected a lot of people’s rap styles. I think that was the first rap album that really changed the structure of how hip-hop was. There wasn’t really too much structure in hip-hop before that. It was still figuring it out. I think Illmatic was one of the first albums to really bring a structure. The verses, the choruses. Everything is really lined up.

If you listen to Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, which came out a year before, you don’t really hear 16 bars, chorus, 16 bars, chorus. You kind of hear a sloppier, a lot more raw [structure]. I think Nas was the first person to sit down and make it an art. He decided to really do something with it."

via XXL

Nas has also called Bishop the "future of music" and is expected to executively produce his upcoming album.

Vic Mensa

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

"I mirrored so much of my style in my earlier days around Nas and Illmatic. I was really trying to rap like that. I used to print out pages of Nas raps and imitate them, count the syllables and bar structures and make clone raps. Same flows, but just different words."

Kendrick Lamar

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

"You hear it in my music what's surrounded me, and just to be able to elevate your mind a little bit further past that through writing is bigger than one song. In order to do that and craft that, it's on another plane, and I wouldn't have been able to do that if it wasn't for that album [Illmatic], truthfully."

via BET.com

Action Bronson

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

"Nas is one of my favorite rappers, period. If you want to sound like anybody you just want the smoothness and lyricism of Nas. It’s a seamless project. There is a reason why there are only ten songs on there and it’s only him. You have AZ as the only feature on there. At the end of the day it’s a fucking incredible album, it’s hard to fucking explain."

Via XXL

Jay Rock

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

"You know, I come from the projects too, and he comes from the projects where he comes from. You know what I mean? So, even though he was from the East Coast, it's like everything he was talking about was related to everything we were going through in our neighborhood."

A$AP Nast

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

"I heard Illmatic and I was like, 'This is that shit,' and that was it from there. I had older homies around me that was actually into music in that era, who put me onto it, like, 'This is the shit.' Pretty much all of the music I listened to was brought to me that way. It was all very organic."

Smoke DZA

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

"I don't think I listened to it when it first came out; my cousin was the person who put me up on Nas and said I had to listen to this dude named Nas, that he was true. I was a Biggie fan all the way, so he was like, Yo, you gotta listen to this Nas dude. The first song I actually heard was 'It Ain't Hard To Tell.'"

Via XXL

Ghostface Killah

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

"Good music inspires me to write. If I hear a beat and it’s bangin’, I want to go grab a pen and a piece of paper. I could feel me catching lines in my head. Good music with ill beats or whatever it might be, somethin’ real funky, that inspires me to do what I do."

Sir Michael Rocks

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

"The beats is what really caught me 'cause they're so dusty and then so, like, not polished. Everything was kind of still raw. Still pretty raw and real New York. I could just hear the New York project hallways in the raps, you know what I'm saying?"

Killer Mike

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

"Illmatic has made and makes me strive for perfection on every album."

Lil Wayne

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

On "I Don't Like The Look Of It," from I Am Not A Human Being, Lil Wayne raps, "Fuckin with my iPhone, bumpin' Illmatic/I'm on the road to riches, there's just a lil' traffic." Weezy has also freestyled over "Ether" and "If I Ruled The World."

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

"The artwork [made] a lot of MCs, like Biggie, Tech N9ne, all of us, [follow] after he did his baby picture on the front. We did the same thing with our baby pictures."

J. Cole

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

Despite the fact that he rapped over a Kanye/Rick Ross beat, J. Cole emulated the cover art with "Villematic." He also recognizes that he'll never make an album that good by dropping these lines:

"He said Cole, 'a lil birdy told me on the low you got an Illmatic'
Nobody touching Nas nigga it's more like Villematic
Uh, these fayettnam tales be paying off well
What story is my audio theatre gon tell
I know my debut will ship, but is it gon sell?"

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

To promote The Dreamer/The Believer, Common did a series of verses where he rapped other MC's bars to show who he was influenced by. One of those verses was "Life's A Bitch." Check out Common cover his favorite verse from the Illmatic classic.

He's also been quoted saying, "It was that serious for so many of us. We didn’t just grow up with hip hop; we grew up with hip-hop as hip-hop was also growing, and so that made for a very close and intimate relationship that was becoming more and more urgent – and we felt it. Our art was being challenged in many ways as the moneymen began to sink their teeth into us."

Chuck Inglish

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

"I first heard Illmatic in 1995 in my cousin, Boldy James’, basement. I was in sixth grade. Boldy had the tape. He was a couple of grades older than me. That's what he and his friends were on, so they put me up on it."

Fashawn

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

In addition to releasing an entire Illmatic tribute project, Fashawn enlisted Nas on his The Ecology single. He's also signed to Nas' label Mass Appeal, so the influence/inspiration is pretty obvious.

ScHoolboy Q

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

"Nobody was rappin' like that, you know what I'm saying? Not no West Coast niggas, not nobody. Nas was like, he was like 19, right? For that type of knowledge at 19 was crazy."

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

As Complex pointed out, there is a pre-Illmatic Jay Z, and a post-Illmatic Jay Z, and they are quite different from each other. Beforehand, Jay was rapping similarly to Big L, but on Reasonable Doubt, he's spitting something a little more similar to the Queens MC.

Jay Z had a Nas sample on his track "Dead Presidents," and also shouted Illmatic out on "A Star Is Born" by saying, "I had the Illmatic on bootleg/The shit was so ahead, thought we was all dead."

El-P

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

"I consider it one of rap’s perfect albums, something that every rapper afterwards had to strive to live up to. It raised the bar permanently."

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

Jay recorded a "Nas Salute," which samples "The World Is Yours." Jay also produced a beat for Nas and has received co-signs from Nas, so the love is mutual.

Wale

21 Rappers That Were Influenced By Nas' "Illmatic"

"From his lyrics and the way he conducts himself -- being able to write a song backwards, or from the perspective of a gun, pushing the envelope from a creative standpoint -- my hat tips off to him and I want to follow those footsteps."

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